We never know for sure how or when God is going to intercept us along our journey, and when He does it’s often much different than we’d expect. I suppose it has everything to do with the fact His ways and thoughts are so much better than ours. The lyrics “so much better Your way” are currently resonating with me. What I do know is this, God deeply desires to connect with us, He is constantly pursuing us, and He can be as creative as He wishes in His approach with us.
God is using CrossFit to unfold a new chapter in my life’s story with Him. If you are not aware, CrossFit is an approach to fitness that uses olympic lifting, gymnastics, and cardiovascular conditioning in all sorts of combinations to create an effective fitness program. I have not always been an advocate for CrossFit. In fact, as a group fitness instructor I used to tell people not to do CrossFit! I am singing a new song after taking on a personal challenge of doing 90 consecutive crossfit workouts (6 days a week). God has been teaching me spiritual lessons that apply to many areas of life. As I share them here I pray they empower you to move forward in what God has for you.
I Stumbled Into CrossFit
I pretty much stumbled my way into CrossFit, or at least it looked that way to me. I’m pretty sure God knew what He was doing though! After six months of travelling through the United States, Lee and I crossed the border in and ended up on Vancouver Island. We expected to tour the Island for a month, maybe two and then be on our way. Like them sometimes do, circumstances changed that plan!
After just two days on the Island, Lee took an unexpected trip back to Louisiana to help his parents. For the 10 weeks he was away, I stayed on a small farm with friends. I had been watching this particular friend go through a pretty amazing transformation in her own CrossFit journey over the last year and a half. I was super inspired by her, so when she suggested I join the gym I was ready to at least check it out.
God has always spoken to me through physical activity, something I talked about in a recent blog, What’s Your Body Saying?
Lessons Learned Through 90 Days of CrossFit
All the things I have learned from this journey have come via physical activity, but that doesn’t mean those lessons remain confined to the gym. These same lessons are true whether you apply them to your spiritual walk or any other area of life. Pay attention to the ones that stand out to you because I’m guessing God may have fun opportunities for you to apply them to in your own life.
Lesson 1: Realize your current opinions may not be grounded in truth
The first barrier I needed to get over was my preconceived ideas of CrossFit. When I taught group fitness I encountered a few people who had injured themselves doing CrossFit. So without really learning anything about it, I decided CrossFit was obviously a reckless activity and not safe. I didn’t recommend it to others. To begin this journey I had to lay down a false reality I had built in my head. When I actually searched out the truth, it turned out I was wrong.
I wonder how many areas in life I have done this? Formed opinions based on assumption instead of truth. Taking what others have said as gospel instead of taking the time to experience it for myself. How many other decisions have I made based on thoughts that have no real grounding or foundation? It really has softened my heart to realize I don’t have everything figured out and I desperately need The Holy Spirit to guide me into all truth. And hey, it isn’t so bad to be wrong; it opens a door of opportunity to learn new things.
Lesson 2: Your ego will keep you from moving forward
It didn’t take long before my ego began to speak up, trying to convince me this was a bad idea. Thoughts would come up like “I don’t want to do a workout with my friends, maybe I should schedule in a different class.” This seems like a strange thought, where was it coming from? When I searched this out with Holy Spirit I realized I was concerned they would find out I am weak; I would be exposed.
I had linked my identity to my past; a twenty-year-old rock climber who prided herself in being strong. Twenty years later I was still clinging to the image of who I once was and my ego was trying hard to keep the lie in tack. The only way I could keep this false image in place was to pretend, avoiding anything that could potentially expose the truth. Unfortunately this road leads nowhere. It is like putting the breaks on being able to move forward at all. God had me come face to face with the false self I had created and asked me if I was willing to let go in order to discover who I truly am. Identity based on what we can create will always leave us falling short.
Lesson 3: Avoiding fear is not the same as facing it
I didn’t think of myself as fearful, because I was generally successful in avoiding what I feared.David G. Benner
It is easy to feel like we are full of courage if we never face anything we need courage for. Easy to think that we don’t have any fear if we have safe guarded our lives in a protective bubble and nothing gets to rock the boat. I am sure the disciples would not have been scared of the storm if they were tucked safely away in their beds at home on dry land. CrossFit constantly hits my fear button!
The workout for the next day is posted at 5pm the day prior which is plenty enough time for me to read it and come up with all the reasons why this is going to go poorly, why it is too hard, or even impossible. The truth is, all the workouts can be scaled to a level that is appropriate for each person. But each day I have the opportunity to face fears because these workouts push me outside of my comfort zone. All of a sudden I have a reason to remember my need for God and stand on the truth of His word.
It doesn’t matter what the fear is about, when it comes up it is a training ground. God is teaching me how He wants to be present in hard things, how He wants me to rely on Him, and the more opportunities I have to face fear the more I am learning I have access to courage.
Lesson 4: Doing the hard things is what causes growth
I think most of us are aware of the fact that moving through hard things causes us to grow. If you want to build physical muscles then resistance is required for muscular growth. The same is true in our spiritual walk; the resistance we face is what enables growth. So why in the world do we constantly try to find the easy way out? I can’t tell you how many times throughout these past 90 workouts I’ve looked at the amount of weight prescribed and want to find the easy route. As I add additional weight plates to the barbell I think, “this is enough, it would be easier if I just stop here.” Of course it would, but am I stopping short of the weight that will give me the greatest gains and the greatest growth?
Our society is filled with the desire to get something for nothing. Quick fixes and finding the easy way out. And yet it is hard work that pays off. It’s like we’re obviously avoiding the very thing we should be embracing. Why is that? Once we start to embrace this truth we will also embrace growing into what God has for us. The more I try to avoid doing hard things the more I am actually cheating myself.
Over and over again I approach the workouts worried I can’t do it, and over and over again I get to the end surprised that I actually did it! The feeling of accomplishment that comes when you do hard things is so much more gratifying that taking the easy way out. Come on! We are made to do hard things. To overcome, to conquer, to have victory. The Bible even tells us so:
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.Romans 8:37 (NSAB)
Lesson 5: Working your weaknesses is a powerful opportunity
When we do things we are good at, we tend to feel pretty good about ourselves. It feels good to be good, to be successful. The opposite is also true, doing things we are bad at tends to feel, well… bad! The temptation then becomes to avoid the things we are bad at and gravitate to the things we are good at. Besides, my ego likes it better when I avoid my weaknesses.
One part of CrossFit’s approach to fitness is something called the hopper. Imagine a large hopper filled with bingo balls, each with a different exercise written on it. Anything and everything you can think of; a 5km run, box jumps, bench press, climbing a tree, pull-ups, clean and jerk, freestyle swimming, you get the idea. Being able to tackle anything that comes out of the hopper is one way CrossFit measures overall fitness.
We are all naturally going to have strengths and weaknesses. Think about what exercises you would be excited to see come out of the hopper? These are most likely the things you excel at and probably enjoy. These are also very likely the things that you feel make you look good in the eyes of others. You look like a rockstar! The real question then becomes, “what items are you hoping and praying DO NOT come out of the hopper?”
The things we struggle with of course, our weaknesses, are what many would rather shy away from. Yet these are the very things we need to turn our attention to. These are our biggest opportunities for growth. Doing so requires humility and getting over our own ego like we talked about earlier. Not only will it bring the biggest gains in overall fitness, but in character building as well.
Is there a weakness in your life right now that God is highlighting to you to lean into instead of avoiding? Maybe it is time to turn that weakness into a strength, and the only way to do that is to work your weakness, stop avoiding it. Shift your way of thinking to be excited for everything challenging that comes out of that hopper, because it is like getting on the express ramp to becoming the best version of yourself.
Lesson 6: We can go further in community then we can alone
One of the best parts of the CrossFit gym I attend is the incredible community. We have people of all shapes and sizes. Some have goals to lose weight, some train to compete in competitions, and some want to get strong enough to be able to chase and play with their grandchildren. Whatever our goals, we come each day and all do the same workout, everyone finding the level that will challenge them. It doesn’t matter if someone has more weight on the barbell, because everyone is doing their best. There is enough friendly competition to push each other, to keep showing up and doing our best.
I have experienced both sides, being encouraged and being an encourager; both are amazing. To have other people believe in you, to confidently tell you that you can do it when you’re filled with doubt, the confidence in their words push you to try harder and step out further than you thought you could. Their belief empowers you! And on the flip side, standing close to someone when you know they are ready to give up, telling them they can do it, cheering them on, believing in them and encouraging them. Your belief empowers them!
I have been able to see great gains in my CrossFit journey because of the community, the coaching, and the encouragement. Could I have gotten to where I am today on my own? Sure, but I guarantee it would have taken me much longer and it wouldn’t have been as enriching as this experience has been. In all of our journeys, the beauty comes through relationship.
My CrossFit Results
15 Weeks – 90 classes
I feel so much better in my body and can do so many things that I couldn’t do when I started. Pull-ups, ring dips, higher volume of push-ups, handstand push-ups, and all the barbell work. My overall body weight really didn’t change much at all. I started out at 142.3 lbs and after 15 weeks I ended up at 141.7 lbs. The good news is overall weight isn’t the most accurate measure of what is going on internally in the body. I actually lost fat while gaining muscle, so don’t be discouraged if you’re working out and not seeing the weight loss results you were expecting. There’s more beneath the surface!
|61.5 lbs.||68.1 lbs.|
Another measurement of fitness taken at the gym is a workout called Baseline. It is a 500m row, 40 air squats, 30 sit ups, 20 pushups and 10 pullups, trying to do it as fast as you can. The first day I started I did Baseline and had to use bands to assist in doing the pullups. The second time I did Baseline in June I was able to shave nearly three minutes off my time. This has been one of the most amazing transformations in my own personal life. I tell Lee that I feel like I’m more fit now than when I was in my twenties.
|8m 10sec||5m 54sec|
I am so grateful that God uses the very things I love as teaching tools, it’s much more fun this way. I am eager to see where this journey continues to go and the lessons I still have to learn along the way.
What about you? Does God speak to you through physical things? We would love to hear your stories.